Freight companies ship close to 70% of goods consumers use every day. Although it’s pretty much the best way to move freight, trucking still has drawbacks. Between fuel and maintenance costs, not to mention environmental concerns, heavy duty trucks have a lot of room for improvement. Not to worry. Just a few short months ago, transportation technology whiz Elon Musk unveiled his Tesla semi truck.
It’s not in full-blown production yet, but you might see a few prototypes tooling around the country. So far, the performance has been promising. That, along with the specs and super-cool look, prompted some big names such as FedEx, UPS, and Anheuser-Busch to place orders. If you couldn’t attend the swanky premiere of the Tesla semi truck last November, here are some facts to bring you up to speed.
Tesla Semi Truck Features
A Futuristic Look
First, the look of the Tesla semi truck is so, well, Tesla. With a bullet-inspired design, they look like they’ve come back from the future. The impressive appearance is mostly a side effect of the design’s real purpose. The shape makes it extremely aerodynamic. At .36, the drag coefficient is about half of a typical diesel truck, and it’s even less than a high-performance sports car. Plus, because there’s no bulky combustion engine to accommodate, there’s a frunk under the hood. For now, the available models are for short-haul use. They don’t include sleeper cabins, but the design can easily be modified to include that feature.
And that’s just the outside. The inside looks like something out of science fiction, too. Rather than the familiar cab, it’s more like a starship cockpit with one seat for the driver centered in the space and a jump seat just behind it that folds up or removes entirely. The console is clean and uncluttered. There’s a steering wheel and two touchscreens. The screens offer navigation information and allow drivers to access routing and logging tools along with other fleet management software and apps. (P.S. In old-school semis, you have to add these features separately, but they’re standard with the Tesla semi truck.) Plus, the screens help drivers keep an eye out all around. Cameras mounted throughout the semi allow for an almost 360-degree view visible on the monitors.
Safer Than Other Semis
The overall design is more than aesthetic. It is supposed to make the Tesla semi truck safer than traditional diesel trucks. For instance, the extensive view on the monitors enhances safety along with convenience. Also, the battery pack is located along the length of the undercarriage in a flat configuration. This gives Tesla trucks a low center of gravity for protection against rollovers. The regenerative braking feature eliminates brake fade, providing shorter slowdown and stop times. Plus, the truck has automatic emergency braking.
What’s more, the Tesla semi truck comes with many programs and equipment that Musk claims make it the safest truck on the road. There are sensors that prevent jackknifing and enhanced autopilot that keeps drivers in a chosen lane, warning when the truck veers out of it. Tesla semis resist impact thanks to the reinforced battery, and impact-resistant glass is used in the windshields.
Teslas are Powerful
Early on, the big joke with electric vehicles was how gutless they seemed to be. However, the Tesla semi truck has no such problem. It has a Model 3 motor on each wheel that allows it to pick up speed quickly. The Tesla truck can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds pulling no load. Even if the load is maxed at 80,000 pounds, the Tesla may still beat out traditional semis, able to hit 60 mph in 20 seconds. What’s more, it’s said to maintain that speed up a 5% grade.
But what about the range? Freight company drivers can’t afford extra stops throughout the day to charge batteries. Apparently, with this particular electric truck, they won’t have to. At the moment, freight companies have a choice between two Tesla semi truck models. One has a 300-mile range on a full charge, and the other has a 500-mile range. Tesla claims that it takes just 30 minutes to juice up to an 80% charge and, with the larger model, that may take you another 400 miles.
Operation cost is one of the Tesla semi truck features that interests drivers and freight companies most. Musk estimates that charging at a power station will cost about 7 cents per kWh, translating to a fuel savings of between $100,000 and $200,000. Additionally, these electric semis use regenerative braking. That allows the battery to recover about 98% of the truck’s kinetic energy, helping to keep the battery charged longer. The company says that means the brake system can last for the life of the semi.
Aside from the brake system, other maintenance costs are lower, too. Tesla trucks have only one gear with no transmission, no engine, and no differentials. Losing all those moving parts should reduce break down occurrences. Musk claims these savings mean a Tesla semi truck will pay for itself in about 24 months.
The Price Tag
OK, the Tesla semi truck price tag is admittedly a little spendy. Still, considering the cutting-edge technology and the low-operation costs, they’re fairly affordable. Depending on which model you opt for, the prices run between $150,000 and $200,000. Since the average price of a new traditional semi truck ranges between $110,000 and $195,000, Tesla semis aren’t that much more expensive, all things considered.
Of course, the company isn’t in full-scale production yet. If you want a Tesla semi truck, you have to pre-order it and put $20,000 down for the reservation. Companies ordering multiple trucks could easily pay out the cost of one traditional semi to reserve several Teslas, and they won’t even be available until 2020 at the earliest. Still, with the promise of cost savings, environmental benefits, and a one-million-mile warranty, Tesla semis seem to be worth the wait.
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